Essential Nutrients For Strong Mental Health February 08, 2018 15:12
Eat well to protect one of the most important organs in your body: Your brain.
While food is always a great way to get these brain-beneficial nutrients, supplements can be considered for larger nutrient deficiencies or simply to give your body a head start while making dietary changes.
"You don't necessarily need to take a supplement if you're perfectly healthy," says Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, author of The Supplement Handbook. "If you do have a health condition, though, or you're at higher risk of a disease, you may want to consider taking a supplement."
Dr. Moyad shared how these nutrients can help you overcome or prevent psychiatric issues.
(Always consult with your own doctor before starting to take supplements, especially if you're currently taking medication.)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
"Both plant and fish sources of omega-3 fatty acids may slightly reduce depression," says Dr. Moyad. Omega-3s may even help Alzheimer's patients, although, he notes, they help more with depressive symptoms, not memory loss.
Dr. Moyad also says there is preliminary evidence that omega-3s may help reduce the over activity of cellular signals in the brain in adults and children with bipolar disorder.
Food Sources: Fish (wild-caught salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, trout, and white fish), chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
"Folic acid and B12 are showing promise for those with depression," says Dr. Moyad. "Folate depletion also appears to occur in the severe depression phase of some bipolar disorders."
He does advice against high doses of B vitamins for those with Alzheimer's because research has found that it may increase depressive symptoms.
Additionally, preliminary research suggests that taking folic acid while pregnant can reduce the risk of autism by 40 percent. "Folic acid is an essential vitamin, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy, because it's involved in the formation of major organ systems, including the brain and spinal cord," he says.
Food Sources of Folic Acid: Broccoli, spinach, asparagus, lentils, avocado, papaya, corn, and peanuts.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12: Clams, eggs, crab, beef, trout, salmon, tuna, haddock, milk, and yogurt.
"Supplementation modulates high-energy phosphate metabolism and is also being studied to improve mania in bipolar disorder," says Dr. Moyad. While he points out preliminary research in this domain has been shaky, he does say it's worth discussing it with your doctor.
Previous research has also shown that choline may help with your memory.
Food Sources: Eggs, milk, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp, crabmeat, soybeans, legumes, tomatoes, flaxseeds, and pistachios.
For bipolar disorder, Dr. Moyad says that magnesium oxide may help convert 5-HTP to calming serotonin, but dosages need to be figured out on an individual basis with your doctor. And, while less severe than bipolar disorder, magnesium may also help with mood swings due to PMS.